Intestinal blockages during pregnancy

I have known all along with this pregnancy that I could have some complications because of my ostomy. I even mentioned in my post on the second trimester that I was concerned about the possibility of blockages as things progressed. Turns out, it was a valid concern.

Sorry if this is a little long, but I’ll try to tell this story as succinctly as possible. It started last Monday evening. I started feeling a little funny at work and by the time I got home, I was having a decent amount of pain around my stoma. I also realized that I really hadn’t emptied my bag much at all that day. I tried to take it easy that evening, drinking a lot of fluids and staying away from solid food, putting a warm compress around the area, massaging it the best I could and eventually taking a warm bath, all of the old standbys for dealing with a blockage. But this all becomes a little more complicated when you’re pregnant, since you have to be careful about heating your body up too much, plus it’s just hard to submerge a big belly in a bathtub. But hospital ERafter the bath, I was feeling a lot better. I tried to sleep it off and told myself that if things weren’t better in the morning then I would go to the ER. Well, in the morning I was feeling better, but still was having very little output. I decided to go to the ER out of an abundance of caution since I’m also responsible for another life now.

At the ER, they checked everything out and decided it would be best to admit me in order to give me some IV fluids since I was dehydrated and to keep an eye on my output. Normally when someone has an intestinal blockage, the doctor can sort of thump on the belly to listen for certain sounds, and they will usually do an X-ray or a CT scan to find out if a blockage actually exists and where it is. But none these are options when you’re pregnant. The belly thumping is pointless and the X-ray and CT scan can be potentially harmful to the baby because of the radiation, so really all I could do was wait. Not eat anything and wait.

I ended up staying for 2 days, getting lots of fluids and keeping a close eye on the baby during that time. By then my output was getting back on track and I was able to eat solid foods again. So home I went on Thursday.

We had a family wedding going on that weekend, so it was very busy. I felt fine all day on Friday and even when I woke up Saturday morning, my output was completely normal. But about noon, I started feeling blocked up again. At the wedding, I was in a decent amount of pain, but this time it was not focused around the stoma, but rather right between my uterus and my ribs, which is where your small intestine gets smushed up when you’re pregnant. I was also very nauseous. I tried to stick it out as long as I could, but I couldn’t touch any of the food there and was honestly concerned I was going to vomit at any moment. I couldn’t even get water down at this point. I left the wedding early to go home and go to bed.

I felt better being in bed, but when I woke up Sunday morning, I was still in a lot of pain, I hadn’t had any output for close to 24 hours, and I was still nauseous. I knew I needed to go back to the hospital, no matter how much I didn’t want to. This time, as soon as I arrived they took me straight to Labor & Delivery. They checked for any signs of early labor, but the baby was stephanie hughes hospital blockageperfectly content to stay put. While thankfully everything looked great with the little one, I was in pretty excruciating pain. I was literally scared that I could get a perforated bowel that could put both me and baby at a huge risk. I got some more IV fluids which really seemed to help at first, but then the pain and nausea came back just as strong. This time, I did actually throw up some horribly vile looking stuff, which is the first time I’ve actually thrown up from a blockage. I was again admitted to the hospital.

By now I hadn’t eaten anything in over 30 hours, yet I was burping repeatedly, but thankfully did not throw up again. Since I was still having at least a minimal amount of output and I wasn’t throwing up anymore, the doctors figured it wasn’t a complete obstruction, but likely a partial one due to a kink or something like that in my small intestine.

I was still in pain the next day, even after 2 days of not eating and lots of fluid, but it eventually started to subside. They put me on a clear liquid diet and by day 3 I was getting more output, and the cramping was down to a minimum. Still causing a little discomfort, but nothing as frequent or intense.

stephanie hughes pregnant bellyOne upside was I went down for an ultrasound that morning to check on the little one, who seemed to be completely unfazed this entire time, which helped me to relax. It was difficult not knowing what was going on with the baby this whole time. I was on a prenatal floor the entire time, so I was glad knowing we were in good hands and that they were keeping an extra close eye on both of us.

I was able to go home by day 4, feeling a lot better, even though a little worn down. All of this to say that blockages are a real concern when you’re pregnant. And I assume even more so when you’re short like me and there’s just not a lot of room for all of the baby and uterus and bowel and everything else. I would think this would be true for anyone who has had bowel surgery, whether you have an ostomy or not. My surgeon told me that the baby itself is rarely the cause of a blockage and it’s usually due to scar tissue. So I take that to mean that it’s most likely an area of my intestine that has scar tissue that also got jammed up because of my growing belly and the lack of available space.

After spending 7 of the last 10 days in the hospital, I think I’ve decided that I need to stick to a low-residue, mostly liquid diet for the remainder of this pregnancy. (I do not recommend doing this unless you speak with your doctor or nutritionist first!) Both my OB doctor and the dietician said that it should be fine for me and for baby, especially since I’m as far along as I am, but I need to make sure that I am getting enough protein and enough good calories, not empty ones from sugar and such. I know it will be hard, but thankfully it’s only for a limited number of weeks. We will see how it actually goes in practice because I really love food! But I also really love not being in the hospital.

Have you dealt with intestinal blockages while pregnant? Are there any tips you have found for avoiding them? Or for helping them to pass once one starts?

11 thoughts on “Intestinal blockages during pregnancy

  1. margaretfelice

    Ick, sorry to hear about the complication. Good luck with the modified diet during a time when your body will be craving all sorts of things. I’ll be thinking of you!

    Reply
  2. Marie Colantoni Pechet

    Oh I hate obstructions – so painful and I more often than not vomit during them. But then to have the worry of the baby on top of it is scary. Glad you are doing better and will pray for smooth sailing during the rest of your pregnancy!

    Reply
  3. Dianne

    I hope you are feeling better soon and so happy baby is fine! God Bless you both! Maybe try some boost calolorie smart drink. Im not pregnant but it is good for protein and low in sugar – make sue it says calorie smart 15 or 16g of protein! ❤️Dianne

    Reply
  4. Colette

    Hi Stephanie: You do not have to apologize for writing because you think it is too long. I can say that I am sure that all of us who follow you are very happy to hear about how you are dealing with all of this. And I am glad that you are on the road to recovery. You are a true inspiration. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

    Reply
  5. patsygazaleh

    Bowel obstructions are some the worst pain and vomiting. I have found that Smart Water helps tremendously. The added electrolytes help a lot with dehydration. I drink 2 liters a day. It helps too with keeping stool a lot less formed and easy on your bag. God bless you and the baby.

    Reply
  6. Kim

    I’m glad you posted again, I was wondering how you have been since the last post of you in the hospital. Glad everything with baby is ok 🙂

    Reply
  7. ostomychic

    So sorry to hear about this. Blockages are the worst. And, it must be so scary to worry about the baby at the same time. I hope the low residue diet helps and that it is smooth (or at least smoother) sailing from here.

    Reply
  8. Bobbi

    I had a blockage start at 17 weeks pregnant. After 2 weeks in the hospital had surgery at 19 weeks to fix the problem. I also was told it was due to scar tissue from colon cancer surgery.
    Crazy!!! Had a healthy boy, born on his due date.

    Reply
  9. Rachael

    I left a comment on one of your older posts sharing my story of having a full bowel obstruction during my pregnancy too. I was beaten raped, and sold, and when i finally got free i thought i was safe so I went to the hospital and told them what happened. They didn’t believe me and called my kidnappers to come and pick me back up. WAIT WHAT!? This is a true story that they aired all the details of about 3 years ago in June we had several people all become sick from Tylenol. Then last year and now this.
    Just want you to know that someone has been through what you are going through and if you need someone to talk to I am actually currently going through it again except thankfully this time no baby. I am not pregnant this time which does make a huge difference but I have P.T.S.D. from the trauma I suffered during my pregnancy and how sick I got due to negligence. So this is the closest I have been to back in that same place I was 6 years ago that almost killed me. So say that my anxiety is running high would be an understatement.

    Reply
  10. Pingback: How I plan to better manage pregnancy with an ostomy the second time

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